Can Bill Clinton Seal the Deal on Health Care?

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Fifteen years after his own push for reform failed, former President Bill Clinton returned to Capitol Hill to give Democrats a "pep talk" on how to push the health care bill through Congress. At a lunch with Senate Democrats Tuesday, he urged them to "just pass the bill, even if it's not exactly what you want....When you try and fail, the other guys write history," Politico reports. Commentators seem to have high hopes that Clinton can close the deal on health care reform. Here's why:

  • He Has Strong Ties to Centrists  Domenico Montanaro of MSNBC's First Read says Clinton's relationships with conservative Democrats from Southern states may help him convince the holdouts to vote for the bill.
Clinton has strong ties to the Senate centrists who could very well decide the fate of the health-care bill in the Senate. Clinton was governor when Ben Nelson served as governor of Nebraska; Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor just happen to represent Clinton’s home state of Arkansas; and Clinton and Joe Lieberman used to be very close personally and ideologically -- before the Lewinsky scandal. During the 2008 campaign, Clinton seemed to find his stride campaigning in red America -- in places that are similar politically to Arkansas, Nebraska, Indiana, etc. Clinton's at his best when he's giving others political advice, and he excels at framing an argument better than just about anyone on the political stage.
  • Clinton, Communicator  Naftali Bendavid of WSJ's Washington Wire says Clinton has a way with "ordinary Americans" that few other politicians can match, something that could help Democrats win on health care. "While his oratorical reputation has been eclipsed by Obama’s," Bendavid writes, "Clinton was always known as a top-notch communicator, at his best when speaking about the problems of ordinary Americans."
  • He's Been Waiting 15 Years For This  Zeke Turner of New York Magazine refers to Bill Clinton as the Democratic Party's "fixer." If anyone can finalize a deal, Turner seems to think it's Clinton.
Bill Clinton is not just a former president, he is the Democratic Party’s fixer. When Clinton went to North Korea to trade Kim Jung Il a photo-op for the freedom of two Current TV reporters, it was just a favor for his old friend Al Gore, right? Nothing official. Well now White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have invited Clinton to lunch with the Senate Democrats tomorrow to get them ready to go to work for health-care reform. And you know Clinton will bring his a-game pep talk. He’s been waiting fifteen years for this.
  • He's Learned the Lessons  At The Washington Post, Ezra Klein says it's likely that "the former president was there to fire up the troops and communicate the lessons of his own failed effort." 
  • Maybe He Can Talk Some Sense Into the Dems  Susie Madrak of Crooks and Liars is hopeful Clinton can whip the Democrats in line," but given the level of dissent among Democrats over provisions in the bill like abortion, she's not so sure. "Hopefully the Big Dawg will make them see the political danger of screwing up this health care bill. Of course, since Sen. Bill Casey is already hard at work on a Stupak-type bill, I wouldn't count on them listening."

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